What’s in a name? Unearthing the origin of the ethnonym Ayoreo

    Ayoreo is an indigenous language of the Zamucoan family spoken by about 4,500 people in northern Paraguay and southeastern Bolivia. Although we knew that the name Ayoreo means ‘people’ in their language, the origin of this word was a conundrum.

    Indeed, the name Ayoreo only emerged in the 1940s for the first time, while the Ayoreo had been in contact with Western society for centuries, and many different names had referred to them. In the first half of the 18th century, a missionary had carefully described a Zamucoan language very close to Ayoreo, called Zamuco. Surprisingly, in the available documentation on Zamuco, the term for ‘people’ was not Ayoreo. Is it possible that nobody before the 1940s had understood that the Ayoreo were called Ayoreo? And, even so, why had this term for ‘people’ never been documented before?

    Although indigenous societies and their traditions are often seen as static and immutable, cultural and linguistic change can be rapid. For this reason, it was hypothesized that the name Ayoreo  ‘people’ had been borrowed recently.
    In a paper that has just appeared in Journal de la Societé des Américanistes, Dr. Luca Ciucci reconstructs the history of the name Ayoreo ‘people’ and solves the etymological problem of Ayoreo. Thanks to the analysis of new historical data, he found the first attestations of the name Ayoreo in the close 18th-century language Zamuco, showing that the term was not borrowed.

    At the same time, the study confirms that the adoption of the word Ayoreo to refer to an ethnical group is indeed recent and is an indirect consequence of the Chaco War (1932-1935) between Bolivia and Paraguay. In the past, the Ayoreo people were sometimes referred to as Zamuco, from the name of the close Zamuco language, which is extinct.

    Still today, Ayoreo is one of the official languages of Bolivia and is referred to as Zamuco in the Bolivian Constitution. This study also analyzes new ethnonyms used in the past for and by Zamucoan peoples. While confirming that Zamuco is a borrowed term, as assumed by previous studies, the “real” name of the Zamuco people in their language emerges for the first time.
    The link to the study is here 

    Back to List


    More News


    Introducing Nathanael Edwards

    Introducing Nathanael Edwards

    The Cairns Institute at James Cook University (JCU) is proud to announce its collaboration with Goondoi Arts First Nations artist Nathanael Edwards for a special inaugural art exhibition, Guwal Yabala...

    Read More

    Cairns Port Douglas Reef Hub now online

    Cairns Port Douglas Reef Hub now online

    The Cairns Port Douglas Reef Hub is a local network to connect, grow and champion the efforts of diverse organisations in the region to support the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. ...

    Read More

    Jabalbina MOU signing

    Jabalbina MOU signing

    A recent trip to the Daintree Rainforest Observatory (DRO) in Eastern Kuku Yalanji country saw The Cairns Institute's Director Professor Stewart Lockie participated in a meeting to workshop&...

    Read More

    "Reflections from the Kwibuka 30 Symposium: Commemorating the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda"

    Dr. Judith Rafferty, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow of the Cairns Institute, participated in a thought-provoking symposium at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, on April 11th and 12th. The ...

    Read More

    It takes a village to raise a family

    It takes a village to raise a family

    Held 16-17 May at the Cairns Convention Centre, the 2024 Early Years Conference (EYC2024) exceeded all expectations for the organising committee. The 400-delegates conference was sold o...

    Read More

    Thriving Kids in Disaster Report

    Thriving Kids in Disaster Report

    The Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership (TQKP) is a Queensland-based intermediary and relationships broker focused on systems change for the benefit of children and youth. Instigated and hosted ...

    Read More

    The Unfinished Business: Fiji’s Colonial Legacy

    The Unfinished Business: Fiji’s Colonial Legacy

    The Unfinished Business: Fiji’s Colonial Legacy After almost 50 years of independence, Fiji remains a fragile State politically because of the deep-seated racial division between the two major r...

    Read More

    Transformative Impact of Augmented Reality

    Transformative Impact of Augmented Reality

    As a dedicated researcher at the Blue Humanities Lab at James Cook University, Melusine Martin’s passion lies in exploring the intricate relationship between humanity and the world’s ocean...

    Read More

    Top

    © 2024 The Cairns Institute | Site Map | Site by OracleStudio | Design by LeoSchoepflin